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iPhone sales top 1m in Korea

The number of Apple’s iPhone subscribers in Korea surpassed 1 million as of Thursday since its launch nine months ago, its provider KT Corp. said.

The exclusive iPhone distributor here expects the number to exceed 1.2 million early next month with about 200,000 iPhone 4 preorders yet to be delivered.

Previous versions of iPhone sold nearly 900,000 units and the new smartphone sold more than 11,600, the company said.

“iPhone’s 1 million record is a symbol of smartphone’s popularization,” said Pyo Hyun-myung, president of KT’s mobile business group. “We’ll spur to realize ‘mobile wonderland,’ where anyone in the country can enjoy data services through unlimited Wi-Fi and unlimited 3G.”

KT said iPhone could leverage the smarphone boom because of its competitive payment plans and strong wireless internet networks called “3W” WCDMA, Wi-Fi and Wibro it launched early this year.

iPhone’s 300,000 various applications for users to choose from and high satisfaction from existing customers also contributed to the success, KT added.

Competition among gadget makers and mobile carriers is becoming intense since Apple released the iPhone 4 on Sept. 10, to take the lead in the smartphone market.

Local competitors such as Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics have been striving to challenge the mega-hit iPhone by introducing new gadgets, including the Galaxy S and Optimus series.

The country’s biggest mobile carrier SK Telecom Co. said it has sold more than 1 million Galaxy S smartphones this month since it hit the market at the end of June.

SK’s rival and second-largest operator KT estimates up to 2.5 million people will have its smartphones by the end of the year.

Korea’s mobile phone market is one of the world’s most vigorous and rapidly growing.

The Korea Communications Commission said Wednesday there were 50 million mobile service subscribers in the country as of this month, more than the population of 48.8 million.

Smartphones, however, have a relatively small share of 7.4 percent of the total, but suggest huge growth potential.

Korea’s wireless industry is expected to see 4.8 million smartphone users in total by the end of the year, according to a report by research firm International Data Corporation Korea, released in July.

By Shin Hyon-hee (